If the Georgia General Assembly eliminates the Georgia Council for the Arts, which, as we reported, is a distinct possibility, citizens across the state would feel the pain. The agency does more than distribute state funds; it is the conduit for funds and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and South Arts, a nine-state regional arts federation.
“The Georgia Council is essential in keeping over $800,000 in federal funds earmarked for Georgia flowing into the state each year, which will be lost under this proposal,” says Gerri Combs, South Arts executive director. “Also jeopardized are South Arts programs, grants and subsidies throughout Georgia with an impact of $3 million, and our conferences held in the state which bring in visitors and sales tax. The GCA’s role is a vital link for the state’s economy and cultural life.”
South Arts’ board of directors has drafted a formal resolution requesting that the General Assembly reinstate the Georgia Council for the Arts and return the budget allocation to the amount originally requested. According to a GCA mailing, House members felt that HB 1049, the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) bill, would take the place of the GSA. The missive went on to explain that smaller, rural counties benefit more from GCA funding than would be possible with LOST.
Let’s put this in concrete terms. Without the GCA, audiences in Brunswick, Augusta, Watkinsville and elsewhere, for example, will no longer enjoy visits by independent filmmakers or art exhibits and educational activities funded by South Arts. Forget programs like “Writing the Wartime Experience,” the writing workshops held for returning GIs and their families.
Georgia artists across the state would no longer participate in such programs as the annual Performing Arts Exchange, a marketplace for bookers of presenting institutions around the region, and the Southern arts registry, a juried online listing of visual and performing artists that links them with organizations and schools seeking their services.
The ripple effect on the economy would outweigh any savings the General Assembly would accrue from this action. If you want to express your opinion, notify your legislator.